Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This Week was Bazaar: Nihon Week 29

So this week I asked Alyssa for some advice or insight on a particular concern that I have been pondering in general.  I have wondered what to do to help those that seem apathetic in regards to the church  and in keeping their covenants.  And even more importantly,  helping someone understand the significance of the Gospel and how much it can help them in their daily living if they just allow it.  How do you get someone to even care about or even desire for knowledge of the truth?  This was her response:
As far as your question, that is hard....I would give a few suggestions and hope they help. First is that the most important thing they can do is have personal experiences for themselves. Whatever you can do to facilitate those experiences is what will help lead them to lasting conversion...the spirit is necessary in those experiences, otherwise it won't make much of a difference. One thing that I have noticed is that the Spirit will ALWAYS testify of the Savior and His atonement (which is the basis of everything important to us) as well as the First Vision. Teach those and get them off their phones and beg them to think about their eternal salvation. It is hard and takes work but loving them is also so important. Show them the love that Christ and God have for them through your actions, and maybe it will help make a difference for them. It can be a challenge, but do like Moroni advises and then pray for that charity with all the energy of your soul!

The Book of Mormon is a challenge for people here because it is written in super difficult kanji that people don't recognize and so a lot of times they whine when we make them read it because they claim they don't understand, but I have seen the Spirit help people like Ayaka understand, and I know if they do it with the right heart and intent, they will come to know of the truth. It can be a process, but it is going. Introducing Christ can be hard too because usually they just know the name if we are that lucky, but the best way they come to know Him is through the Book of all comes down to that.

So, definitely some things I can work on.  Here is her group letter:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

First of all, I know that bizarre isn't spelled like that, please read
on for further explanation and to understand the full nature of my wit
(haha) and secondly sorry in advance that this email is going to be
short and sporadic because we had a longer adventure today and I had
to help an elder write his college application essay, basically it is
like I am back home haha.

This week was great and we saw so many miracles! I have seen how
willing God is to bless us as we simply do our best and TRY to fulfill
His work. His mercy and His love are so infinite.

Something kind of fun was we had the chance to dendo in a couple more
typhoons this week...haha it was pretty fun and wet and cold and
overall would have been okay if it wasn't for the fact that Nihonjin
are like cats and they hate the rain and don't really like to talk to
us on those days... but we were able to see God's hand guiding us to
those who were willing to listen (we found some GREAT new PI's and
Eikaiwa students), especially as we just tried our best to survive
working in the weather! I love Japan so much.

One of my favorite experiences from the week (and maybe even my
mission) was the chance that I had to contact this 10 year old girl
named Ayana....she told us she didn't believe in God because it
confused her to know where God comes from. I was able to testify and
tell her that God lives and loves her and that she is one of His
precious daughters with infinite value and worth. As I testified, she
got the biggest smile on her face and the Spirt was so strong. At the
end of our contact her entire countenance had changed and she seemed
to walk a little taller. These sweet Japanese girls don't get told
things like that very often, and to be able to help lift her faith
even a tiny bit was so beyond worth it to me.

Another cool thing was that we had this barbecue for the ward and
investigators this week, and so many people came! It was amazing! The
ward was so great and fellowshipped all of our investigators that came
(fun fact, we had these two Eikaiwa students come and try and provide
beer for everyone, THAT was an awkward thing to clear up haha), but it
was truly such a great experience for the ward to get involved in
dendo. I never thought I could love an area as much as I loved
Yamatokoriyama, but Shimogamo has basically started stealing my heart
as well. The Japanese members are so incredible and are changing my
life and I don't even know how it is possible for my heart to hold the
amount of love that it currently is. So cool!

Another miracle! Last night we were Streeting before our dinner
appointment and we had like no time but wanted to find some good
people to teach so we prayed super fervently for good contacts...the
last lady we stopped that night just happens to live super close to the
church and just happens to have been looking for an Eikaiwa class and
just happens to have her one work break on Wednesday night...oh my
heavens Folkman Shimai and I almost fell over when we heard all of
this stuff, she was SO led to us by our loving Heavenly Father! Being
a missionary and witnessing all of this stuff every single day is just
the coolest!

Funny order to fellowship one of our Eikaiwa students she
invited us to her Junior High Bazaar and it was hilarious because we
get in there and we are the only foreigners and we are suddenly
swarmed by all these junior high kids who want to show us their goods
and somehow I ended up with a homemade coaster and made a paper crane
(made to iu ka, I failed miserably and some other girls helped me fix
it haha). I have never felt so loved and popular in my entire life!

One last thought (sorry this email is so the worst and is probably so
wrong grammatically and that breaks my heart but oh well)...I just
want to testify that God blesses us in every aspect of our lives as we
simply try to follow Him and His will. Lately we have been working
super hard and trying to contact everyone and teach lots of lessons
and haven't seen a TON of outward results in investigators...but then
suddenly out of the blue this mom and her four kids show up to Eikaiwa
and they self-referred and have a Christian background and speak
English and want to take the lessons....we were blown away but it was
such a testimony to me that God sees every single little effort we put
into His work, and He is willing to bless us like a hundredfold. I
will never get over His grace and His mercy!

I love you all so much and hope you have a great week. This church is
true and I feel blessed to be hear sharing it. Until next week!

Sister Pickering

P.S. Mike and Sully are our most progressing investigators....we role
play to them everyday and I am pretty sure they are gonna get baptized
soon, just saying.

Alyssa speaking Japanese

I love the Sister's fans in the background

Self portraits

Baptist Eye Clinic.  Shout out to her Dad.
Happy Elder or suprised

Role playing with their silent investigators

Drowned rats eating icecream

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Oh Happy Day (Sung in the stylings of a Japanese Gospel Choir): . . . .

Typhoon weather in Japan

I posted a few videos of Alyssa experiencing the climate in Japan.  I never knew that Japan had such extremes in weather.

This week I have been really touched by the blessings that Alyssa has received on her mission apart from the apparent and expected ones.  Granted, her spiritual growth has been phenomenal but there has been so much more.  They truly seem endless and each week more miracles happen.  Alyssa is very fortunate to be serving in one of the most beautiful and culturally enriched areas in Japan and in the world.  She has an amazing mission president that not only allows, but encourages his missionaries to visit and experience the areas where they are serving.  Sometimes I see her pictures and feel like she is on an extended vacation.  But then I read her emails and am thankful to see how hard she is working and the many tender mercies she sees manifested each week.  She has also been blessed to be visited by her faithful convert Ayaka, on a couple of occasions.  That is a humungous blessing for both of them and a rare occurrence in most missions.  She is truly fortunate.  And then we are all extremely blessed by modern technology.  I am able to receive short videos where not only can I see that she is well, but I can feel the joy coming through them.  God is so good.  And this mission has enriched our family in so many ways and has certainly changed Alyssa.  Thank goodness for an understanding and all knowing Heavenly Father.
Group Email:
Minasan, Konnichiwa!
Hello once again from Shimogamo (okay I am sorry that the beginnings
of my emails are so awkward, I don't even know what to say and I am
just awkward in English to begin with and so just pretend like I said
something witty and move past the first part, okay?).
THIS WEEK WAS SO GOOD. It is quite possible that this week was filled
with some of the most tender mercies and little miracles that I have
seen in my entire life, and it has been such a faith building several
So our wonderful district leader Hirschi Choro has talked to us a lot
lately about the importance of doing everything in our power to
achieve our daily goals...lately that is something that we haven't
been struggling with per se, but it just hasn't been a focus of after hearing some pretty cool experiences of his, we decided
that during nightly planning we were going to try and be a little bit
more thoughtful in setting out our number lesson goals for the next
day, and then just not be satisfied with our work until we have
reached them. We decided we were not going to take any excuses and
just work our very hardest, and I can tell you that that simple
decision opened up the gateway for us to see MIRACLES, right from the
very beginning of the week!
Tuesday we had the chance to go and visit this 80 something year old
widow in the ward again named Nakamura Shimai, and oh my heavens I
love her. She just pulls out all the bells and whistles for when we
come and visit her and gets us this ridiculously delicious sushi and
then we just teach her and I always feel the Spirit so strongly in her
home. Her faith just inspires me and her love for the Savior is
tangible and it is so neat. She then asked Folkman Shimai to play the
piano and for me to sing for her and she recorded us on this little
tape recorder thing and then she listens to it (she has others from
past missionaries) when she gets sad and lonely..ahh it just melted
our hearts. She always is so grateful when we come and visit her and
she says she feels the Spirit and so much love and around us, and in
moments like that, I am just convinced I want to be a missionary for
the rest of my life. Anyways after that we had some awkward time and
it was dark and we still needed to get two lessons to meet our goals
and we didn't have that much time...but we were determined to do what
we had decided to do so we fervently prayed and decided to go and
street in this one lighted intersection place and we were very quickly
led to two people I KNOW we were supposed to meet and teach...and one
of them turned into a new investigator! Such a miracle and we were so
blown away by the tender mercies of the Lord! She is like a grandma
but asks us to call her Tanaka Chan and she just started playing the
piano and so invited us to come and meet her other beginning piano
grandma friends the next day and to talk, and Folkman Shimai would
play some hymns for them (my companion is SO TALENTED, FY), and she
was super great and listened to us. WE WERE SO EXCITED!
Wednesday we biked to the place where we were going to meet Tanaka
Chan, and we met her and her two little Grandma friends and it was
basically the most yabaii thing ever because we go in there and Tanaka
Chan starts acting like a doseki for her friends as we introduce them
to the gospel and play some hymns and sing for them and then have a
super spiritual lesson on prayer..Folkman Shimai and I were in such
shock of what was going on! But they seemed so prepared to hear us and
meet us in that moment! It was cool because Tanaka Chan is super
receptive to the Spirit and she kept telling us that she feels so good
around us, and when we talked about prayer her heart felt hot...boy
are our hopes high for her. She and her friends are such goons too.
They loved looking through the pictures of the front of the Book of
Mormon and all decided that Moroni is handsome but Joseph Smith is a
"beautiful boy". Literally haven't laughed so hard in so long. That
night we had a great Eikaiwa and SO many new people came (including
these two insurance ladies that tried to house us one morning during
studies but we turned the tables on them, holla), and it was just
great. That night we needed one more lesson and so we decided to walk
home until we absolutely HAD to get on our bikes to be back in time
for curfew, and nobody was listening. We were getting kind of nervous
but we had seen the Lord put His hand in our work so many times
before, and so we had patience and faith. At the very last moment when
we HAD to get on our bikes to be on time, we see a lady in the
distance and decide to give it one more go. Sure enough, she was cool
and listened and let us teach her. She didn't want to meet again, but
she did want to learn about prayer! Miracles for days, my friends.
Thursday after another RC lesson, we went out finding for a bit before
SKK, and my companion gave me the goal to not take no for an answer
that day, and I am sure that was entertaining for everyone. I have
become a much bolder person on my mission (which is funny, because
that isn't something that I thought I struggled with before), but it
is gratifying to think about myself as a missionary 6 months ago and
note the changes. Just everyone needs to be baptized haha.
Friday was cool because we had ZTM, and we did it like in workshop
format this time where we rotated to the different classes we wanted
to companion and I focused on finding techniques and
teaching baptism more, and it was so cool. We definitely have so many
things to improve, and luckily now we know how to do it! That night we
also had a lesson with our investigator Regine and it was super solid!
We committed her to baptism and although she declined a date at the
moment, I know she will get there soon...she just needs a more solid
answer about the Book of Mormon and we will get there soon!
Saturday was also a super good day. We got to go help at a RS activity
on emergency preparedness (good news everyone, if there is an
earthquake I know how to make food now so I don't die), and then we
went to go to the piano recital of our three new grandma
investigators. Oh my heavens they were so precious and were SO touched
and excited that we came to see them, because nobody else did. We were
able to bring them such joy from such a simple act of kindness, and it
just warmed my heart so much. But the best part was that before the
piano started, there was a Japanese gospel choir.. oh my heavens we
laughed so hard we literally cried (I know, we are terrible people).
They all wore these silvery sequin sparkled scarves and were swaying
and signing like they were from the Deep South and the kicker is that
they don't speak English so they have no idea what they were even
saying and they don't even know who Jesus is..  what even is this
culture haha. But regardless I saw my first gospel choir performance
and it was by a bunch of Japanese people and it made my entire life.
Sunday was great, my companion gave an amazing musical number in
sacrament meeting (I turned the pages for her on the piano and I have
never felt so musical haha) and the Spirit was super strong, and one
of our investigators FINALLY made it to church with her member
husband, and we were able to have a lesson with them during the second
hour. On the way home to our apartment that evening, we got caught in
a typhoon and I have never seen so much rain in my entire life and
everything was flooded and we were soaked to the bone and the
Lightning almost struck us like 56 times but we lived so it is okay.
Haha I love Japan.
Last spiritual thought (sorry my emails are so long, I am a loser, I
know)...the other day during companion study Folkman Shimai and I were
discussing how we sometimes feel like the Japanese culture is stacked
against them to accept the gospel. They are so incredibly busy 24/7
and family relationships aren't incredibly valued here to the same
extent that we have in the church and in America and Jesus Christ is
nothing but a sometimes heard name and they just struggle so much to
understand the simplest gospel doctrines sometimes...we were getting
pretty deep and kind of sorrowful honestly as we thought about these
people that we love so much not being able to accept the gospel
because of the "wickedness of the traditions of their fathers", and as
we were talking the scriptures Jacob 5:21-22 came so strongly to my
mind. I looked it up and read it, and basically the servant of the
vineyard is asking the Lord why He put some trees in the "poorest spot
in the land" and he was basically questioning if the Lord knew what He
was 22 the Lord counsels the servant to "Counsel me not",
and basically tells that He is fully aware of the situation that He
places his trees in. This struck me so strongly, because I realized
that I was being that servant that was questioning the Lord, and so
lovingly He reminded me to not counsel Him, because He is aware of the
situation that He has placed these wonderful Japanese people in. He
knows there might be some cultural barriers, but I happen to know that
God loves us so much that He is willing to give us help proportionate
to and more of the trials that we face. Everything we are given in our
lives is given for the benefit of us returning to God someday, and
what a blessing that is. If you are going through something hard,
don't counsel the Lord about it. He knows where He put you, and He
knows exactly what you need so that you can grow.

I love this gospel and I know it is true. Everyday is such a blessing
to be a missionary of this amazing church. Love Japan and these people
and I can't wait to help them receive the gospel every single day that
I am here with this badge on my chest. Wouldn't want to be anywhere
Love you all so much, and hoping everyone has a wonderful week! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

P.S. For P day we went to Kinkakuji (the golden temple) and my cute
little Ayaka came and met us again! She is basically my favorite
person ever, love her to pieces.

Folkman Shimai
 Kinkakuji (the golden temple)
Sweet Ayaka came to visit
Connected for Eternity
Another video, this time of their p-day adventure
And finally, another video.  This one is of Ayaka.  But I also love it because you can hear Alyssa talking in Japanese which we haven't heard since she left the mtc.  It's amazing what 6 months in another country can do.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Forgiveness and Fushimi Inari: Nihon Week 27

Fushimi Inari

Excerpts from my letter with some answers to my questions:

As far as your questions about me and Japan, yes it feels like home now, I have been here for six months, how crazy is that? Sometimes it still strikes me that I am here and that it is so beyond amazing, but then other times it has become a part of life for me. I am finally at the part where I understand basically everything that is said to me and I can BASICALLY communicate whatever I want back. It won't be pretty and there might be some pantomiming, but I am finally feeling comfortable here and I feel like a boss anytime I strut up to some tourist place and start speaking to them in Japanese. They get SO excited as I even try to talk to them, it just warms my heart so much, these people have hearts of gold. I was around a fair amount of Americans today at Inari and honestly I was so not amused with them haha. They were loud and rude and just so American and in that moment I realized how much Japan has changed me and my outlooks a lot haha. As far as things I miss from America...I miss my bed. My back is done with futons. I miss the pets and I miss Mexican food and Sour Skittles and real burgers and French fries. I also miss garbage disposals and dryers and feeling like I have a full night sleep...but really all is well. I love Japanese food and I love the culture here and there is so much that is just so special and I love so much. Such a unique place really. I will be happy to return to America someday, but I will also miss Japan terribly. It has become a part of me.

Funny thing is I actually prefer teaching in Japanese. Mom I am so awkward in English now, like you don't even know. I literally do not know how to dendo people who speak English. Sure I can do trainings for missionaries and teach a lesson here or there, but overall teaching in Japanese is just comforting. It is the weirdest thing. Maybe it also has to do with the fact that Japanese is my mission language and so that is what I was promised divine help in speaking. But yeah, interacting with people from all over the world is so cool. Very international.

might get to see Ayaka next week! We are going to the Golden Temple (NBD) and she has a school break and wants to come see me. Honestly it makes me so happy because I am HER missionary. I am the only one that went through EVERYTHING with her and we have such a special bond. Love her to pieces, can't wait for you to meet her. She is everything to me and in this moment I hate serving so far away from home because I don't know when I will see her again. 

The "good" stuff:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

Wow what another great week here in Shimogamo! I am seriously so
blessed to be serving in such a great area with an amazing
companion...we are having so much fun and seeing so many blessings and
missionary work just keeps getting better and better every single day!
Monday after emails we went and visited Shimogamo Jinja and then tried
to visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace but sadly it was closed on Mondays
because they hate missionaries or something. Then we just went and
shopped around Demachiyanagi before the proselyting day started and we
did some good old fashioned AreaBook Dendo and made a bunch of
chirashis to hand out to everyone about prayer. It has actually been
super successful thus far!

Tuesday after regular studies we had some awkward time before we had
to go to our first actual appointment of the day so we decided to go
and do some finding by the river. It was kind of hot (but not tire
melting hot, thank goodness that has passed) and we literally were
talking to so many people for about 45 minutes and not a single soul
would give us the time of day. It was kind of discouraging and we
didn't know what to do, and so we just both had the feeling that we
needed to just go aside and say a prayer for a minute. We prayed so
fervently and told God that we just wanted to find someone we could
teach and share the gospel with and we told Him we were willing to
work hard to do it...we just wanted to be able to fulfill our purpose!
Literally less than a minute after prayer we see some lady with an
umbrella in the distance and we just know we need to go hunt her down
and so we end up running in the other direction to go and catch her
and lo and behold, she believed in God and let us teach her. Then
shortly after, we were able to teach 4 more people back to back. We
were absolutely blown away that suddenly everyone was willing to
listen to the message, but then suddenly we weren't surprised at all. The power
of prayer is SO real. God loves us so much and He is so willing to
grant us so many blessings, all we need to do is just ask! He has been
pulling strings all along to be able to help us in our lives, we just
need to turn to Him and He will mercifully deliver, as our Father. It
was such a tender mercy and honestly the little daily miracles just
like that are what makes the mission so beyond worth it.

Wednesday we had ZONE CONFERENCE! We had the wonderful chance to get
together with the Kyoto zone (which as we were reminded, is the most
envied zone in all of Japan) and the AP's and the Welch's and receive
some great training. Folkman Shimai and I received so much revelation
for our area and how we can strengthen Shimogamo in the ward and our
investigators, and it was so cool to just feel the Spirit speaking to
us personally. As always, President Welch was phenomenal. Seriously
his trainings just blow me away. He is an incredible spiritual giant
and I learn so much! With him we talked a lot about how to focus our
studies on our investigators, and as we do so out of love for them, we
will receive inspiration for them and for us as well. As we have tried
to REALLY diligently apply that in our studies this week, we have seen
miracles in planning. So dang cool. Another training I really liked
was by the STL's and it was all about trusting in God. In life and in
the mission we all have desires to work hard and be obedient, but
sometimes we find that we have these little "Yeah buts", whether they
be about getting up on time or not contacting as much as we should or
maybe back at home rationalizing immodest clothing or not being honest
in school....needless to say we are all imperfect and have a lot of
"Yeah, buts" that we can improve on. I can testify however, that as we
try our best to fix those with obedience, we see the blessings and
power of heaven flow down around us as we allow God to help us
unhindered. As we trust in Him, we will be more blessed than we can
even imagine, in any aspect of our lives.

Thursday was a good day as well as we visited some members (I LOVE
JAPANESE PEOPLE) and I taught a cute grandma on the bus (slowly but
surely Obachan Nihongo is becoming a little easier to understand) and
then we did SKK and had a planning session wth the elders about how we
can baptize the world here in Shimogamo. We applied a lot from Zone
Conference and getting to work on it has been so fun.

Friday we had District Meeting in Katsura, and it was kind of fun
because Folkman Shimai and I were able to provide some training on
"Listening" from PMG. Listen to those you love with love, and  listen
to the Spirit, and you will be able to help everyone who talks to you.
I can testify to that so strongly! After DM we visited some members
and it was neat because that night we had the chance to share a lesson
with a sister who has been struggling lately. We talked about the
importance of reading the Book of Mormon and how it can strengthen us
beyond our own capacities as we make the time to read daily, and the
Spirit was so strong. I felt prompted to share an experience from my
own life and it was tender and emotional and the Spirit in the room
was just amazing. This sister was so touched and we saw her yesterday,
and she is reading regularly again and is doing worlds better. The
moments like those make me fall even more in love with my mission.
Getting to help lift someone a little bit with the doctrine of our
Savior is the coolest.

Saturday we taught some friends and had some great dendo and Sunday
was similar (church is amazing, translating is still hard), but we
finished off the week with a great dinner and lesson on the atonement
at our regular Mizoguchi family dinners. My goodness I love this area
so much.

My final spiritual thought this week comes from an experience we had
yesterday...we work with this less active who was once an incredibly
strong member but then about 24 years ago she stopped coming to
church. The reason that she gives everyone is that it was because she
thinks food storage is apostasy (don't get me started on how
ridiculous I think that is), but Folkman Shimai felt there was
something deeper. We went into the lesson yesterday with the resolve
to just listen with love and show as much love as we can to her (she
is fluent in English and sometimes like to sass us, if only she knew
pre-mission Sister Pickering, that would be fun), and the Spirit was
with us right from the very beginning. We just listened and barely
spoke but when we did it was through the Spirit, and she eventually
confided in us the real reason she left the church, and it has to do
with the fact that a member offended her and she has not been able to
forgive them. Because she has not been able to forgive this man, she
has lost out on blessings that the atonement and the temple and the
sacrament and the gospel has had to offer her for the past quarter
Hearing the story just broke my heart for her and her choices,
but it has made me seriously contemplate a lot of things.

We are all so imperfect. All of us sin and mess up and hurt people on
almost a daily basis. Almost all of us could choose to be offended or
to hold grudges over any given things, but to what end? At the end of
the day, as we choose not to forgive others, we choose to stand under
a pavilion that doesn't allow the blessings of peace and forgiveness
and the atonement flow into our lives. As an authorized representative
of Jesus Christ, I testify that the Savior has never once held
forgiveness from us. Everyday we do things that require His
forgiveness, but as we plead to Him in mercy, we are always granted
that peace and forgiveness and love. As we choose to not allow others
to have that same peace, we are only holding back ourselves. I plead
with you now to FORGIVE. Big or small, whether it happened ten years
ago or today, please forgive those around you. We are all trying so
hard, and we are all on the path home. I have seen in my own life and
the life of investigators what happens as someone chooses to forgive
and chooses to let the Savior heal them, and I have seen what happens
as the opposite choice is made. The latter is heartbreaking and won't
help anyone, and so I just encourage you all to do whatever you can to
never let a grudge or hurt stop you from being welcomed to the
Savior's embrace.

Well everyone, I know this church is true. I know that it is blessing
my life and the lives of all those I come in contact with, whether
they realize it or not. God really is our Father, and He really does
love us. The Savior really did atone and die for us, and He is always
there waiting for us with welcoming arms and the invitation to be
healed. I love my mission so much, and I feel so blessed to be here. I
love being a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day

Have a wonderful week everyone! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

P.S. Happy Willie Day to all my XC friends out there...I forgive you
all for not writing me :)
P.P.S. Today for P day we went to Fushimi Inari and it was AMAZING.
Please enjoy the overload of pictures from my beautiful mission and
amazing country.
P.P.P.S. Sorry my email titles are getting progressively lamer...I am
just boring now and I like alliteration, so there you have it.